Column: Telephones make the world go around

By BUSTER WOLFE,

As long as I can remember, my life has been around telephones and The Phone Company has controlled it, in some way.

Maybe not controlled like “In Like Flint,” a movie I saw at the late Paramount Theater in Greenville as part of my 14th birthday party, but still it has had a direct effect on my younger years.

I know that may sound fantastic and overreaching, but my father, Clyde, worked for Southern Bell/South Central Bell/Bellsouth when I was a child. So went The Phone Company, so went our family.

My father was the toll test supervisor in the Greenville office on Edison Street for several years. Because he was in a management position – basically, the No. 3 man in the building – he worked extra hours when the Communications Workers of America went on strike. And when natural disasters – flooding, storms, tornadoes, etc. – knocked out power and telephone service in the Delta, my dad was usually called out to help restore communications.

It also never failed that my dad was the one person in the office who was on call during Christmas Eve. Every year, he would get a call from the office while our family was visiting with my grandmother, aunt, uncle and cousins in Leland. Our visit always included a ride down Deer Creek to see the Christmas floats, an annual tradition.

So when my father was so rudely dismissed from the company in his later years, I had no love for The Phone Company. It was a bitter pill after my dad’s almost 40 years in the business.

Another characteristic that I picked up from my father was “fiddling” and “tinkering.” He was a gadget guy, which I believe came from his love of working with gizmos and doodads.

For example, he built garage onto the house so he could repair a 1929 Ford Model A that he had acquired. Unfortunately, he filled up the garage with gizmos and doodads before he could get the car inside.

Even after my father’s passing, I still can’t get away from phones. Except now, the phones I carry around with me (isn’t that unreal when you think about it?) are “smart.” I regularly tell people that I have a computer with me that makes phone calls.

Which is great, don’t get me wrong. I love carrying around an instrument of instant communications and information technology, which only requires a password to connect to other people around the world. It would have been supercool to have one when I was growing up.

Only now, I am physically, mentally and spatially lost on the rare times when I forget to take my phone with me to work. Now that I am working in Hattiesburg instead of Columbia, the ride home to Oak Grove isn’t prohibitive, so I have taken distance out of the equation.

However, when I started having charging issues with my phone, a portable power source became the order of the day. The problem became especially critical when I was using my phone/computer to record interviews or to send Twitter messages during a football game last year and then the amount of battery power almost reached single digits too quickly.

The solution? A portable charger that connected by cable to my phone. Unfortunately, I had to carry the portable charger in my shirt pocket while the phone was being held in my camouflage holster. So as I was dashing down the sidelines of the Purvis-Sumrall football game, all indications showed that I had the makings of a portable defibrillator to keep me from passing out during the contest.

Of course, everything finally worked out. The Phone Store heard about my battery problem, ordered a replacement and I spent a whole day backing up my new phone with the apps and information from my old phone.

Next time, however, I will make sure I can find that list of passwords before I decide to crack open a new phone.

 

Buster Wolfe is a veteran newspaperman whose career in journalism dates back to 1876 and his first job at the Delta Democrat-Times in Greenville, Miss. He lives in Oak Grove with his wife, Patricia, an art teacher at Sumrall High School.

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